Today, I’m delighted to welcome Maggie Christensen to Virtual Book Club, an interview series in which I put questions to authors about the books they’d like to persuade your club to read. If you want to pose a question of your own, you’ll have the opportunity to do so at the end.
After a career in education, Maggie began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.
From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!
She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound. A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, Romance Writers of Australia (RWA), Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.
Q: Maggie, can I start by asking you about your first success as an author? What was it?
I first felt recognised as a writer when a stranger came up to me and told me how much she’d enjoyed my book. It’s still a thrill to receive emails from readers and to have people tell me they love my writing and it gives them hope.
Q: You generally write what you have coined, ‘mature women’s fiction’. What can readers expect?
My readers can expect a feel-good heart-warming story with a strong mature female protagonist who is facing a life-changing situation. They can expect to be taken on her journey as she faces and seeks to overcome the challenges life throws at her. There will most likely be a dash of romance with a strong, but gentle, lover. I write books which celebrate mature women and the heroes worthy of them.
When Beth Carson flees her controlling husband, a Sydney surgeon, and begins a new life in Florence, Oregon, she thinks he can’t hurt her anymore. She’s wrong. Set on the beautiful Oregon Coast this is a tale of a woman who seeks to rise above the challenges life has thrown at her and establish a new life for herself.
‘An intriguing plot with a touch of mystery and drama’ ~ Amazon customer
Click here to look inside or buy. (UK)
Or click here for more reviews and to buy in US.
Q: Today we’ll be talking about your novel, Madeline House. I know it’s the third installment in your Oregon Coast Series, but where does this story fit in with the rest of your work?
When I began the series, I wanted readers to meet old friends in each of the books, while each would have its own protagonist. So each builds on the earlier books, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. What I’m aiming to do in my writing is to provide characters who my readers can relate to, who become friends. One of my favourite authors, Marcia Willet, who sets her books in the south of England, does this and I love meeting old friends when I open a new book. That’s why, although they’re stand-alone books, when you read Madeline House you’ll meet characters you first met in The Sand Dollar and The Dreamcatcher.
TIP: Readers can get a free e-book of The Sand Dollar, book 1 in the series, when they sign-up at Maggie’s website.
Where Madeline House set and how did you decide on its setting?
It is set in Florence, Oregon. I’m often asked why a Scot living on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland in Australia sets a series on the Oregon Coast of the US. It all began over 30 years ago when I was working in Higher Education and took a forced transfer to teach in a country town university in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. I didn’t want to go to the country. I wanted to get back to the bright lights of Sydney. However, to Wagga Wagga I went and there to my surprise I met this hunk of a gentle giant who’d moved there from USA to teach in the same faculty as me. At the ripe old age of 37, I’d almost – but not quite – given up hope of meeting my soulmate. Here he was.
Fast forward around ten years, when I had started to write fiction and my mother-in-law, now widowed and in her eighties, decided to move from California to Florence on the Oregon Coast. This meant we went to visit on a regular basis, and was my first introduction to this beautiful part of the world. The deep forests and wild ocean beaches reminded me of northern Scotland, as did the weather, but there the similarity ends. Florence is widely known as a tourist haven for those who enjoy fishing, horse-riding on the beach, and driving on the magnificent sand dunes, which stretch for 40 miles. I also like to include some local places of interest so have my characters visit cafés and restaurants which I’ve also visited and enjoyed, such as Mo’s Seafood Restaurant, Driftwood Inn and Coffee Roaster’s Café.
Editor’s note: Click here to read more about the book’s location.
Q: At what point in writing the book did you come up with its title?
This has been my most difficult book to find a title for. I usually start with a situation and a title, but I changed the title of this novel so many times, before settling on Madeline House, which was actually suggested by one of my beta readers. As soon as she suggested it I knew it was right and decided to incorporate a house – though not Madeline House – on the cover.
Q: Did you take your inspiration from any real life events?
My last visit to Florence was to wind up my mother-in-law’s estate and I discovered businesses which handle estate sales. I wanted to include that in a novel and remembered a woman – now deceased –I once knew who had a very controlling husband and her story of what happened when he died. I decided to combine these ideas into one story and fictionalise her story to suit the series so that I could re-introduce the characters from the first two books.
Q: What is it about your novel that you feel makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?
I’m aware that book clubs come in various forms, some more serious than others. But I believe that most comprise women in their forties or over – mature women who are my target audience. I believe that older women and the events which impact on their lives are often ignored in literature. Life for older women presents similar and different challenges to their younger counterparts. They still look for a HEA (Happily Ever After), but theirs may include stepchildren – even teenage stepchildren – and ex partners with their attendant issues. My books also explore those issues which only emerge with years – issues such as aging and death of parents, retrenchment, retirement, downsizing, grown children, grandchildren, widowhood and the empty nest syndrome. In Madeline House, Beth has suffered for years from a controlling husband, not recognising it as domestic violence. It is only when she inherits a small legacy from her mother that she is able to flee and attempt to make a new life for herself. The issue of domestic violence is very topical these days and the emotional, rather than physical manifestation are often ignored.
Q: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ (George R R Martin) Which are you?
I’m very definitely a gardener. When I start, I’m never sure where the book’s going to take me. Sometimes it’s not where I expect to go. I start with a heroine and a situation, then, usually a man appears in her life. All of my male love interests have a little bit of my husband in them.
Q: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and why?
All of my books have dedications. Two of my books are dedicated to my husband who is incredibly supportive of my writing and checks the US terminology and spellings for me. My first and third books in my Oregon Coast Series are dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law who introduced me to that lovely part of the world, and my third book, the Dreamcatcher, whose main character owns a bookshop, is dedicated to my local bookshop owner, Annie, who has also been incredibly supportive of my writing and my books.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a spin off from my Oregon Coast Series which is set in Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It features Rosa, a minor character in The Sand Dollar. Entitled Champagne for Breakfast, it begins with Rosa drinking champagne alone by the river on the morning of her fiftieth birthday having just ended a six-year relationship with her married boss.
Q: You publish your books independently, so what do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?
The ability to maintain control of my writing, including title and cover design. I love that I have developed a team to work with – my editor, designer, formatter, critique partner and beta readers.
Q: Who designed your book covers and how do you brief them?
I use the wonderful Jane Dixon-Smith http://www.jdsmith-design.com/ I give her a synopsis and look out a few photos for her to work with.
Q: Which other professional services won’t you skimp on?
I’d never skimp on editing. I have a wonderful editor – Johnny Hudspith http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/ who has helped me improve my writing. When I’m writing a little Johnny sits on my shoulder smiling and groaning at what I write.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give aspiring writers?
Read, read, read, and keep writing. Stifle the doubts. Don’t try to write like anyone else. Find your own voice and go for it.
Want to find out more about Maggie and her writing?
Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Maggie please leave a comment.
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Written on August 16, 2016 at 2:43 pm, by Jane Davis
Categories: Author Interviews, Homepage, Virtual Book Club | Tags: Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), contemporary fiction, Cover Design, indie author, Indie Authors, Madeline House, Maggie Christensen, Mature women's fiction, Romantic Writers, Self-Publishing, Virtual Book Club, women's fiction, Writing life
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